Today, Governor Romney proclaimed that Pennsylvania was in play, and that he believed that his supporters in the Keystone State would triumph, and that because of that, Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes are going to go to Team Red.

In further news, the Romney camp announced that 147 percent of Americans now support him, that catsup is a vegetable, that being down in the polls means that you are up in the race, and that once elected they intend to normalize diplomatic relations with the Ministry of Magic.

Seriously, politicians all say stuff at times which is so transparently the opposite of what is actually happening.   It's a disease, an occupational hazard, it goes with the territory, my GOD, what state am I in right now and WHO am I supposed to be talking to in a few minutes?   In the whirligig of rope walks, puddle jumps, bunting-bearing bandstands and squalling brats, even the best-rested, best-prepared pol is going, from time to time, say things that are patently at odds with reality: witness both camps, with their Harvard-educated, highly-successful and heavily-polished candidates each busily dialing down expectations for the first debate with a furious (and utterly disingenuous) exchange of money quotes about their opposite's strengths as a public speaker.   Yeah, I've been implying the other guy is not qualified, incompetent, clueless, out-of-touch for months now, a guy who doesn't "get" the average American, but by golly, now that push comes to shove and we have to, you know, actually talk to each other it wouldn't surprise me the least if he can make a few points, so let's not get crazy expecting that, you know, I'll actually win.

So both sides do it, but some do it better than others.   Case in point:  Gov. Romney's big "secret", that Pennsylvania were back in play.   It's both highly unlikely and pointless.  In the first place, Pennsylvania, by all accounts is so solidly blue right now that you can't even find a projection that lists it as even being a possible "swing state."   Nate Silver, whose application of sabermetric style to political forecasting has an enviable track record of transparency and accuracy, has two observations about the state that are hard to ignore:

First, that this state is solidly with Team Blue:   as of this morning, the polling averages show that the President has an eight-point lead in a state that will begin early voting next week.  The respected Quinnipiac Poll even has the President up by TWELVE points.  There isn't going to be enough news cycles, enough debate fireworks, to erase eight points, much less twelve,  before early voting begins.   At best, you might see a two-point dip in that time, and so by the time the general election begins, much of Pennsylvania's electorate will have already cast their votes in such a way that the President is likely to be ahead.

What is Romney's big "secret" that could overcome that?   Well, perhaps he's hoping (though he'd be foolish to say so openly) that Pennsylvania's new "voter ID" law could reduce the number of pro-Obama supporters from making their voice heard between now and Election Day.   If so, the musings of this federal judge, who must rule by this coming Tuesday, can not give Romney supporters any confort.  It seems likely that, given the fact that Democrats in the state have gone on the offensive on this point, that whether or not the law is partially hamstrung or not, its effects will be minimized.

Here's a second problem: an upset win in this state might not mean diddly.   Let's suppose Pennsylvania actually did manage to "flip" by November, and that Gov. Romney stages a last-minute rally and wins a close race.   That's not impossible:   Nate Silver estimates that, as of this moment, there is a three percent chance that such an event could happen.  Here's the problem:  Silver's model also shows that this is highly unlikely to be dispositive on the outcome of the electoral college, giving Pennsylvania just a 1.1 percent chance of being a "tipping point" state, ahead of every other state listed as a potential "toss-up" a month ago other than New Mexico which (by the way) is favored to go the President's way, as well.   In fact, other than Rasmussen Reports, every poll now shows the President ahead in all ten of the top "swing states", a list that often as not does not even include Pennsylvania!  Thus, Silver concludes that there isn't any point in putting significant resources into Pennsylvania for either side.

There's been a lot of talk lately about poll bias, but in general polls (and especially averages of leading polls) tend to arrive at numbers that are very close to what actually happens.   In this case, we can evaluate whether or not the two camps really believe the polls by assessing their actions:  if either the President or the Romney camp believed that Pennsylvania might be in play, the story would not be a declaration of upset by the Republican challenger, but a sudden influx of money into the state to rev up the ground game and buy advertising.

That is manifestly not happening.   As the POLITICO article makes clear, neither side is opening the wallet.   In this light, Romney's declaration seems positively quixotic.   The only way he could really believe that an upset is in the works without investing real resources into the ground game and attack ads is if he believed that the dynamic on the ground will be more effected by the voter ID law than by campaigning.    I prefer to believe the Governor is opportunistic rather than personally invested in voter suppression efforts, so in that scenario he couldn't really be hoping that the laws will do what this man clearly intended them to do (I love it when they actually say what they believe):

One more thing, and this really isn't the thing that anyone likes to emphasize, but it's true:  Pennsylvania's importance in the overall scheme of things for national elections has been in decline for a long time.   Beginning in 1960, the Keystone State lost two electoral votes with every census until the last, when it only lost one.  That's a lot of electoral votes, and the changing demographic of the state makes those votes increasingly urban, diverse and...Democratic.   So Mitt Romney isn't just whistling in the dark, he's looking for a blip that goes against a lot of historic trends, and a short-term surge of mythopoeic proportions.

Not gonna happen, sorry.

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